The Lord's Blessing
Hymn: "O God, Our Help in Ages Past" (Psalm 90) PsH 170, PH 210, RL 1,TH 30
This bulletin cover and the three following were inspired by Scripture, by Pastor Homer's themes, and by the poetry of George Herbert (1593-1633) and Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672).
For this first cover, I used imagery from Herbert's poem "Love-joy":
As on a window late I cast mine eye,
I saw a vine drop grapes with J and C
Annealed on every bunch. One standing by
Asked what it meant. I, who am never loth
To spend my judgement, said, It seemed to me
To be the body and the letters both
Of Joy and Charity. "Sir, you have not missed,"
The man replied; it figures JESUS CHRIST.
The speaker is meditating on a stained-glass window late in the evening. Things are seen differently in the dark than in the light of day through this window which, in the Middle Ages, stood as a pictorial lesson or story for the illiterate "common" people. It was to these people that Luther hammered the gospel message that we are saved through faith in Jesus Christ, not through law or works-righteousness.
The central image on all the covers this month is double circles, representing faith and law/works, in this cover the circles are centrally intertwined by grapes (the vineyard of Matt. 21; fruit produced only through Jesus Christ; World Communion Sunday). As in Herbert's poem, the grapes very subtly depict the letters J and C.
Psalm 19 figures strongly in this cover as well, with images of the sun rising and completing its circuit like a bridegroom coming from his canopy. The faith circle doubles up as the world pouring forth speech day and night (cascading stars).
rises at one end of the
heavens and makes its circuit
to the other; nothing is
hidden from its heat.
The lectionary readings for this week reminded me of George Herbert's poem "The Altar":
A broken altar, Lord, thy servant rears,
Made of a heart, and cemented with tears
Whose parts are as Thy hand did frame:
No workman's tool hath touched the same.
A heart alone
Is such a stone
As nothing but
Thy power doth cut.
Wherefore each part
Of my hard heart
Meets in this frame
To praise Thy name:
That, if I chance to hold my peace,
These stones to praise thee may not cease.
O let thy blessed sacrifice be mine,
And sanctify this altar to be thine.
The prominent image of the stone altar symbolizes law/works (it has an ordered pattern but is not quite squared away or perfect) and the altar upon which sacrifices are made to the golden calf. The stone is separated or cut by the power of God as our "altered" hearts are cut by him. The swirls suggest the scent of sacrifice and the voice of rejoicing (Ps. 106; Phil. 4) coming forth from the rocks.
The stone standing outside of the law/works circle represents Christ, the cornerstone whom the builders rejected and, with an ironic twist, also depicts the guest without proper attire, called but not chosen (Matt. 22). The wedding garmet is in the center.
The two circles again point to the theme of law/works and faith: the golden rings used to make the calf, the rings of God's covenant with his people.
proclaim the mighty
acts of the LORD or fully
declare his praise?
The two circular images are again present, depicting the faith and law elements of this month's theme. God on high (Psalm 99), who shows his glory (beams of light shining through and in and among the circles, cloud/rock, and mountain in varying patterns and degrees), is in the midst of faith and law (which is given upon the mountain).
Exalt the LORD
our God and worship
at his holy mountain, for
the LORD our God is holy
In this last cover of the series we again have the circles of law and faith, but here there is not much intermingling. The more distinct (though not total) division reflects the state of the church on earth.
The tent and the clouds symbolize God in the midst of everyone and everything. He is our dwelling place (Ps. 90). The two pillar-like images represent the tables of the law, the Wittenberg doors, monuments that we make of people or denominations or organizations, and division in the church. The sundial image, shaped like a cross, speaks of God, who is in charge of time and who is from everlasting.
Part of my inspiration for this cover came from "Contemplations," a poem by the Puritan poet Ann Bradstreet:
O time, the fatal wrack of mortal things
That draws oblivion's curtains over kings;
Their sumptuous monuments, men know them not;
Their names without a record are forgot.
Their parts, their ports, their pomp's all laid in th' dust;
Not wit nor gold, nor buildings 'scape time's rust
But he whose name is graved in the white stone
Shall last and shine when all of these are gone.
have been our dwelling
place throughout all